The Church’s Gifts- 1 Corinthians 12:12–26
As we’ve learnt from God’s Word, God’s church is a body of people who regularly gather, each having been saved by God’s grace, for his glory, through their faith in the risen Lord Jesus.
The church is made up of members, and each member has been set apart by God because of what Jesus has done for them. Each member has the Spirit of Jesus working in them, and that same Spirit that unites us to God also unites us together as the church. The Apostle Paul put it this way, ‘ Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.’ (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)
The implications of this are far and wide, but we’ll focus on three main outcomes that will be evident in the lives of those who belong to the church and understand t this truth;
1. An equal concern for one another
2. An ongoing effort to promote unity
3. A desire to use our gifts to serve the church
An equal concern for one another One of the most common griefs a parent faces in the life of a growing family is selfishness among their kids. Specifically, kids not having equal concern for each other. In a typical three-child household, for example, there is often a ‘third wheel’. It’s not that parents expect their kids to get along all the time or to even want the same things – most parents love how different their kids are! But when one gets left behind because the others are too busy having fun or working on a project, it breaks their heart.
What we see play out in small ways in the family ends up having a bigger consequences as kids grow up. Social circles can be deadly! Especially, I’m told, in school-age girls. But we know it doesn’t end there. Cliques form in every sector of society as people find common interests with one another, and social scientists reassure us these are normal patterns of behaviour for people. The result of this is the formation of what we call ‘the inner ring’.
The inner ring exists in every social setting, and although no one can actually see it, we all feel its presence. You feel when you’re on the inside of it, and you grieve when you begin falling out of it. And although some people are fortunate enough to have lots of popular gifts and barely know what it feels like not to be in the ring, it’s definitely not the case for most.
Although this is true for society at large, we shouldn’t see it happening in the church. The main reason is because we don’t come together as a result of an observable commonality – gifts or habits or race or gender or anything like that. We come together because God’s Spirit has united us in Jesus. It’s not that we all become alike, but just like a healthy marriage, it’s our differences that enable us to complement one another as we form a united body in the church.
When we understand this, we begin to have equal concern for one another, because what we value in each other is not the gifts we’ve been given, but the Spirit. Gifts can be found in people all over the world! But God’s Spirit is only ever found among his people. Although we’ll still be tempted to form relationships with one another based on the categories of the world around us (those old habits die hard!), a healthy church is made up of members who have equal concern for one another. Members who go the extra mile to seek out people who are not like them, because they’re conscious of how important this is to our Father in heaven, who has united us together by his Spirit to form one body.
An ongoing effort to promote unity because we still live in a sin-soaked world, division always threatens the unity of the body of Christ. Not only is that a problem because of sin living in us, but the devil is always at work trying to drive a wedge between God’s people, and it’s not hard to see why. If the church of God is the body of Christ, and therefore God’s witness in the world of his glorious character, nothing glorifies him more than when we represent him as he is. Loving, truthful, confident,
compassionate, united, holy, hating sin, delighting in what is good, etc. And can you guess what ruins the church’s reflection of God’s character to the world? Everything to the contrary. If we are to continue living in the world as ‘a city on a hill that cannot be hidden’ (Matthew 5:14), we must work together in an ongoing effort to promote unity.
We will be offended by others as surely as we’ll offend them from time to time, but we must use these situations to display the grace and forgiveness of God. We will disagree; we will see one another on ‘bad days’; our pride will blind-side us from time to time; but despite all that, we must be conscious about how we are reflecting the character of God in the way we love and serve one another. And we must keep in mind that it was God’s will to bring us together as one. As Paul says elsewhere,
‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you
have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one
another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond
of peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope
when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of
all, who is over all and through all and in all.’(Ephesians 4:1–6)
A church full of the Holy Spirit will be a church marked by an ongoing effort to promote unity among its members. A desire to use our gifts to serve the church
The Apostle Paul makes a staggering claim when he says to the church in Corinth, ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Notice, to each one… that means, to every one. If you’ve got the Spirit of Jesus in you, you’ve been given gifts to serve the common good of the church.
Are we all gifted in the same way? Absolutely not.
Do all our gifts serve the same purpose? Yes they do; so long as we understand that common purpose is to ‘build up’ or ‘edify’ the church.
And this is where Paul’s ‘body’ analogy is so helpful. He reasons so clearly in a letter to the church in Rome,
‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…’
So before we ask, what is your gift? We want to make sure you know that you’ve been gifted, and that it’s God’s will that you use your gift to bless the church, and know that it’ll be a healthier body as a result. God wants us all to come together, with equal concern for each other, and striving for unity have a desire to use whatever gift he’s given to us to serve his church. That way, not only will our church be a healthy, growing body, but we’ll also be an appropriate reflection of our Lord Jesus for all to see.